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Revista de Psiquiatria do Rio Grande do Sul

Print version ISSN 0101-8108

Rev. psiquiatr. Rio Gd. Sul vol.26 no.2 Porto Alegre May/Aug. 2004 



120 years of Hospital São Pedro: a little of its history




The Hospício São Pedro was inaugurated on the 29th of June 1884 (Saint Peter's day), and named in honor of the saint who is also the patron of the Province of São Pedro, becoming the first psychiatric hospital both in Porto Alegre and the Province itself. Its construction, by imperial decree, was stimulated by philanthropy, and, by the end of the 19th century, was the largest public edifice in the Province.

Until the hospital was founded, lunatics, a social group that is excluded from the behavioral standards elected by society, were housed in a special wing of the Santa Casa de Misericórdia. Since the number of insane patients, originating from the most diverse regions of the Province, was increasing considerably, it became necessary to resort to the Civil Jail. The behavior they exhibited, tranquil or agitated, was one of the criteria on which the location they were sent to depended. An imperial decree, towards the end of the 19th century, making provincial hospitals and charitable institutions responsible for the administration of madness, put paid to any chance of sending insane patients to the Hospício D. Pedro II, in Rio de Janeiro. There was an urgent need for a location exclusively for lunatics.

The Hospício construction project was part of the process of social sanitation of the city, displacing all those with deviant behavior to the suburbs. Indolence was not compatible with the demands of production in an emerging capitalist society. The city, a normalizing influence, seen as an area of opulence, predictability and discipline was reserved for judicious social groups, who defined rational and behavioral standards. It was in this rational environment that madness was considered a threat that had to be silenced and isolated through physical incarceration, far from the public sphere.

The construction site chosen for the building destined for madness, on the "Estrada do Mato Grosso" (today the Av. Bento Gonçalves), in the Arraial do Partenon, a suburb of the city, explicitly invoked the need for an environment proper to therapeutic treatment and, implicitly, social exclusion.

The farm purchased for the Hospício construction had an area of 38.5 hectares. The Provincial Revenue, authorized by the 16 of May 1879 Provincial Law, number 1,220, bought the area from the widow Maria Clara Rabello for 25 contos de réis (the currency of the day). The commission responsible for the administration of the work, appointed by the President of the Province, Carlos Thompson Flores, in November of 1879, was presided over by the Provost of the Santa Casa, José Antonio Coelho Junior. The resources to finance construction where provided, primarily, by philanthropic donations and from revenue obtained, according to Provincial Law number 944, from 13th May 1874, from Provincial Lottery earnings.

With just one of the wings completed, the Hospício celebrated its act of foundation with ostentation in the presence of the authorities and the Porto Alegre press. Increased hospitalizations and the abandonment of patients by their relatives stimulated the completion of the Hospício São Pedro construction, which finally came to pass in 1903. Unparalleled in scale for the period, the building was drafted in blueprint by Alvaro Nunes Pereira and had already been the subject in a Porto Alegre post card during the first ten years of the 20th century.

In accordance with the stipulations of the Regulamento do Hospício São Pedro of 1884, constituted by the President of the Provínce, José Júlio de Albuquerque Barros, the new institution was managed by the Administrative Board of the Santa Casa de Misericórdia, whose Provost, Joaquim José Salgado, was the mainstay of the organizational structure of the Hospício. When the Republic was declared, the government decided that the Hospício São Pedro would separate from the Santa Casa and became subordinate to the Secretaria do Interior e Exterior. When the military coup occurred, the doctors, whose sole representative on the first administration, in the post of Director of Sanitary Services of the insane asylum, had been Dr. Carlos Lisboa, effectively assumed the general management of the Hospício São Pedro. A new Regulamento do Hospício was written, this time under the aegis of a doctor, Dr. Francisco de Paula Dias de Castro, who was also named Director of the Hospício São Pedro by the republican government of the State of Rio Grande do Sul.

Around ten years after the inauguration, at the suggestion of Júlio de Castilhos and with the support of a campaign by the newspaper A Federação, the Companhia Carris Urbanus built a terminal for their horse-drawn public transport system in front of the Hospício São Pedro. This situation, in addition to narrowing the gap between the urban sphere and that allocated to madness, also made it easier for members of the public to approach the confined insane.

In January 1910, in response to an invitation formulated by the Hospício Director, Dr. Dioclécio Pereira, and the Bishop Dom Cláudio Ponce de Leão, the first four Sisters of the Congregação São José, two of whom had come from France, reached São Pedro. By 1964, a community of 87 Sisters dedicated themselves to the distressing and exhausting services demanded by a psychiatric institution, humanizing and dignifying interaction.

In 1926, Govenor Borges de Medeiros allocated five million Cruzeiros (the currency of the day) to refit the Hospital São Pedro (as it had been known since 1925). The work, begun in January 1927, while the psychiatric doctor Jacintho Godoy was hospital director, were abandoned in 1930 due to the unstable political climate in the country. It was during this period that psychiatric discourse and the new therapeutic methods, technologically advanced for the period, were implanted at the Hospital São Pedro.

Part of the Hospital Psiquiátrico São Pedro campus, on whose 13.9 hectares stands a total of 43,710 m2 of buildings, the historical São Pedro construction is protected by both state and municipal authorities. With a built area of 12,324 m2, the architectural complex consists of six, two-story, South-facing wings linked transversely by a single wing running East-West. With eclectic lines its predominant architectural style is neoclassical.


Edson Medeiros Cheuiche
Historian, Service of Cultural Memory, Hospital Psiquiátrico São Pedro, Brazil.

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